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January 4, 1927

Part of our sanitized folklore is the belief that the punishment fits the crime, and that there is – in the end – a sort of rough justice served out.

This has never been the case in Cross.

The town’s ways are the old ways, and the dangers within its borders rarely offer up a rational reason for their occurrences.

So it is with Anne Harper.

In 1927, Anne was a recently married woman of 22, and she and her husband were renting rooms from an elderly couple on Elm Street. The house in which they lived was a quaint, narrow, salt-box Victorian that was pleasant to look upon and to live within.

The elderly couple had inherited the home from the sister’s brother, and they had only been living in the building for three years. As part of the rent agreement, Anne assisted with the basic cleaning of the home. She did this willingly and with genuine joy as she and their landlords got along quite well.

On January 4, 1927, Anne and the landlady discovered a previously unknown hidden door beneath the staircase. The door, cunningly disguised behind a raised piece of paneling, opened onto a dark cupboard. Not surprisingly, the cupboard smelled of dust and slightly of mildew. Since Anne was far younger than her landlady, Anne volunteered to go into the cupboard to see what was within.

No sooner had Anne’s head entered the shadows than she let out a scream of pure terror.

Fear lent strength to the landlady’s old frame, and in less than five seconds she dragged Anne free of the cupboard and kicked the door closed.

A moment later, the door vanished, and Anne neither spoke nor made eye contact with anyone again.

She is currently in the State Sanitarium, looking at the ceiling with same vacant stare her photograph records.

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January 3, 1948

Within the depths of the Cross Historical Society, there is a long, narrow room, filled with glass fronted cabinets. The room lacks a window, and only the members of the society know where the room itself is within the confines of the building.

Each member holds a copy of the key to lock the door from within the room, but only three hold keys to allow entry. One of them is Duncan Blood, for he was the first to request the room’s construction, and the specific cabinets it holds.

Within each cabinet, on glass shelves and illuminated by powerful lights, are creatures not quite living, not quite dead.

They are in a deep sleep, and they are old and ancient. Small, feral beasts with a taste for human flesh, and not quite of this world.

The animals have a taste for human flesh, and the Society members discovered that the creatures were unkillable, but they could be set to sleep, by the right person.

This right person, Duncan Blood discovered, was Antony Ciccolo.

Antony was the son of Angela Ciccolo, who had helped Duncan rid Cross of a violent and murderous fairy 40 years earlier.

So, on January 3, 1948, Antony made a small, glass-faced cabinet. He crafted the piece from hearts of ash, hand beaten iron hinges and leaded glass. When Antony helped Duncan place the screaming, writhing beast within the confines of the cabinet and closed the door, the creature sank to the bottom in an immediate and thorough sleep.

For the next 19 years, Antony continued to work on the cabinets, until the room was filled with them. When asked, only months before his death at the age of 93, what his finest piece of work was, Antony, smiled and said, “Nothing you will ever see.”

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January 2, 1923

Time is fluid.

Not only is it fluid, but it is a river, from which a person – or persons – might emerge at any given point, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

In 1923, Samuel Hitchcock was expecting his brother James and James’ family to arrive sometime during the morning of January 1. When his brother didn’t appear as scheduled, Samuel didn’t worry.

James’ family consisted of his wife, Caroline, and their three young children, all boys, and they were traveling from Worcester, Massachusetts, a fact which could lead to unplanned for delays.

Samuel did begin to worry when there was no word from James, and no sign of the family either. Inquiries were made on his behalf by the Worcester Police Department, but James’ home was empty, and neighbors reported that the family had left early on the first, as planned.

At dawn on January 2, 1923, Samuel set out to follow the route his brother normally took to and from Cross. The route led down past Duncan Blood’s farm and cut through the wide, unclaimed expanse known as Gods’ Hollow.

It was there that Samuel found James and his family, or rather, what remained of them.

They had been stripped bare and hacked to pieces, their clothing and belongings piled haphazardly nearly a quarter of a mile from the bodies. Hoofprints were visible in the frost-heaved ground, and among James’ possessions was the new camera Samuel had sent him as a Christmas present.

Later, when the film was developed, the last image was not of James’ family, but of a group of riders charging across Gods’ Hollow.

Riders with their sabers raised.

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January 1, 1870

     Scarlet Templesmith was, by all accounts, one of the finest young women to ever grace the streets of Cross. Born in August of 1849, she was a young woman of regal posture and manners by the age of 16. She commanded respect and gave the same, and when she was 20, her marriage prospects were excellent.

     Scarlet was not an individual given to airs, nor was she especially fond of those who were. And while some of the other young ladies in Cross might have their heads turned by a young man in uniform, Scarlet required a bit more substance in any man who might wish to gain her permission to marry.

     Joseph Dower believed he was such a man. Invalided out of the Federal service to a due to a wound received in battle, Joseph felt as though Scarlet should marry him, and he made no effort to hide his belief.

     Scarlet rejected his advances, and Joseph assured all he met that she would change her mind.

     She did not, and her parents found her dead in their garden the next day. Scarlett had been strangled, and the main suspect was Joseph Dower, yet the Templesmiths did not have him questioned.

     Instead, the Templesmiths built a small mausoleum for their daughter, and when it was finished, Mr. Templesmith and several other gentlemen kidnapped Joseph.

     On January 1, 1870, they brought him to the mausoleum, where he was chained and wed to Scarlet’s corpse. Despite his begging, screaming, and pleading, Joseph was locked inside with his bride.

     His new in-laws brought him food three times a day, for 292 days, when he finally managed to kill himself.

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December 31, 1924

     On December 31, 1924, the Lifesaving Corps of Cross, stationed at the Cross Lighthouse, was hard-pressed to keep up with the number of incidents it encountered from the first minute of the 31st until the last stroke of midnight on the clock in Duncan Blood’s parlor.

     No shipwrecks were reported, no messengers came through with terrible news of a devastating event.

     But every hour on the hour, the Lifesaving Corps was pulling people out of the bitterly cold Atlantic water.

     The majority of those rescued succumbed to exposure, and others died as they were pulled into the boats. A few, however, survived their trial by water, and the tales they told were harrowing.

     They all, each and everyone, had been sleeping in their homes before waking, drowning in the ocean. And this statement was confirmed by the fact that all were in their bedclothes.

     Another curious item was the date.

     Each person agreed that it was the 31st of December, the last night of the year.

     Yet none of them agreed upon the year.

     Some folk claimed they were from as long ago as 1747, while others stated they had been asleep at home after watching the news on December 31st, 2028.

     These wet and tired travelers were whisked away into the depths of the Cross Historical Society, as were the members of the Lifesaving Corps. Only the Corps left the building, and when they did, their faces were white with shock and disbelief.

     When asked about those they rescued on the 31st of December, the answer was always the same:

     Who?

 

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December 30, 1862

The lands belonging to Duncan Blood are perhaps the most dangerous in all Cross.

Since 1628, and the chartering of the town by Ezekiel Blood, Duncan’s father, the property known as Blood Farm has always been a strange and violent place.

Few know how old Duncan is, or how many dark creatures live in the confines of his land. Locals know that Blood Farm is littered with corpses, and children are warned at a young age not to trespass on Duncan’s property.

But while the townsfolk know, and while Duncan goes to great efforts to maintain a fence and posted signs warning trespassers away, there are always those who will seek to gain entrance to places they should not.

Perhaps the worst year regarding trespassers occurred in 1862, shortly after Duncan traveled with the Federal army to do battle against the Confederate States. He was not there to keep the borders of his property safe, and so people from other towns came in to see if the stories of Blood Farm were true.

Many of them learned the stories were nothing but true.

By the end of 1862, the townspeople of Cross took it upon themselves to patrol the borders of Blood Farm. Strangers had been seen entering the town, but never leaving.

On December 30, 1862, a photographer – guarded by men and women armed with rifles and swords – discovered and documented the remains of 74 individuals. But these were only the victims they could find on the edges of the property. No one dared to go in any further.

Patrols were kept up until Duncan returned in 1865.

 

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December 29, 1865

     1865 was a difficult year for Cross. More than a few of the town’s men and boys had gone off to fight against secession, and some had not returned.

     While what would be known as the American Civil War (also conversely as the War of Rebellion and the War against Northern Aggression) ended in 1865, war itself had not ended. Sporadic fighting continued to take place out in the West between Federal troops and occasional units of secessionist fighters. In addition to this, the Indian Wars, which had necessarily slowed due to the fighting in the East, renewed themselves with a frenzy, as if the wars were making up for lost time.

     On December 29, 1865, a train with only one car pulled into the Cross station. And as if to match the single car, there was only one person waiting on the platform.

     Mr. Duncan Blood, recently returned from the southern battlefields, greeted an elegant and beautiful Chinese woman as she stepped from the train. He bowed low, then joined her for tea in the station master’s office and together he and the lady spoke softly in Chinese for a short time. As they conversed, a crowd of veterans gathered in the station. Men who had fought the British in 1812, the Mexicans in 1848, as well as the Indians in the West.

     When Duncan and the Lady finished, he walked her to the train, saw that she got on, and watched as the train pulled out of the station.

     As the men turned to leave, a young boy who had come with his father, asked Duncan who the woman was.

     “Jiutian Xuannü,” Duncan replied. “And she leads us all to war.”

 

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